It is Good to be In Love

I am not the most patient mother.

I have a temper, I have a limited capacity for dealing with noise and activity, and I have zero tolerance for whining. (Seriously: we have a “no whining near Mommy” rule in our family. You may either whine or be in Mommy’s company, but you may not do the two simultaneously.)

So I go through lots and lots of seasons when my primary attitude towards motherhood is resentment or annoyance or a strangled sort of desperation.

But right now? I am just in love with my children.

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I always love them. The love is nothing new. What’s new or different or fresh in the feeling is that I’m mostly feeling it free of the things that pull it down. Often I love my children with a sort of “You’re driving me crazy, so I’ll remind myself over and over again how much I actually love you!” Or, “I love you, but do you have to be so difficult?”

Lately, for whatever reason, I’ve been looking at my children and only feeling the love.

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I glance at the baby and my heart does a big, cheesy leap. The toddler tugs at me, wanting my attention, and I smother him with kisses and tickles. I pick up my sons from school and I’m so happy to have them back with me that I cup their faces in my hands and smile kisses onto their soft cheeks.

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That may sound saccharine sweet. It may sound manufactured. But I’ll tell you what: It is such a relief to feel this way.

Too often, my feelings toward my children are a tug-of-war of love, frustration, anger, pride, enjoyment, resentment, and more. This is difficult work. It wears on a soul.

So moments like these – days, weeks, minutes when the peace and joy and love of parenting somehow overshadow everything else – they are so welcome. They are so important. They fill me up; they give me something to draw upon when times get hard.

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Spring and Baby Toes Are Good For the Soul: 7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 40)

—1—

All I can think about these days is blogging. Every time my mind wanders, that’s where it goes. Ideas, phrases, revisions, revisits… I feel like a dieting person who can’t stop thinking about steak. I can’t tell whether this is a nudge to find some solution to my current logistical hurdles (i.e. all the little children, all the time), or an unhealthy obsession. It’s probably the latter.

—2—

Speaking of unhealthy obsessions, I had such an election-day hangover on Wednesday. Whoo-wee, was I in a funk. Mostly because of Trump’s growing number of delegates and Rubio’s exit from the race, but also because too few people viewed my post and told me how right I was.

I just can’t describe how much this Donald Trump thing is bothering me. I honestly think his election, should it come to pass (please Lord, no) would be second only to September 11th in the ranking of Worst Things I’ve Ever Lived Through. Every time I think about it my blood pressure skyrockets.

—3—

So it is a DARNED GOOD THING that spring is beginning to make itself obvious. We’ve had such nice weather lately and I’ve been trying to overcome my homebody tendencies to take advantage of it.

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I’m getting really eager for summer.

—4—

Another good thing? This girl. My, how I love her.

 

With each of my other babies, I experienced periods of resentment during the newborn period. (Can I say that?) No, beloved boys who might one day read this – the resentment had nothing to do with you. I’m totally chalking it up to hormones, to those lovely baby blues. But this time I haven’t experienced them at all. (I have felt right on the edge of them, if that makes any sense, but I haven’t actually crossed over.) And it has been so, so nice to be able to look at my baby in full confidence that I’ll just feel love, not a mixed-up combination of love, dread, love, sadness, love, guilt, and love. (Did I mention love enough times there, boys? Because the love was always there too, right alongside the dread.)

—5—

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I made shepherd’s pie and Irish soda bread for dinner last night. I was proud of myself.

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Oh – and green cookies, which didn’t come out of the oven until 8:30 pm, so I was all, “Hurry, hurry boys! Eat those cookies quickly so we can brush your teeth!”

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(See, I’m such a bad blogger I didn’t even bother to make that picture all pretty-like. Nope, just a quick snap of yesterday’s cookies in a plastic storage bowl.) I got the recipe (to which I added lots of green food coloring) from an infinitely better blogger.

—5.5—

Oh, hey, I made a couple of flower arrangements recently for my mom and grandmom’s birthdays. I’m proud of myself for them too. Totally worth staying up until 2am.

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—6—

On a more serious note, those of you who have been reading for some time (or who are friends or family) might know that my mother-in-law has been living with us for a couple of years.

Well, almost exactly two years after she moved in, Hilde is getting ready to leave. It just wasn’t working. I would appreciate any prayers you could offer over the next couple of weeks that the transition goes smoothly for all involved. Vielen Dank.

—7—

Baby toes. Aren’t baby toes a great cure for what ails you?

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Well, I’m off to my favorite two hours of the week: Diane Rehm’s Friday News Round-Up. Let’s hope I can keep my blood pressure down.

 

Have a great weekend, everyone. Be sure to stop over to Kelly’s to check out all the other Quick Takes!

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Putting Out Fires

I’d forgotten what it was like to live like this — running nonstop, spending my entire day putting out fires.

Inching out from under the sleeping baby to nominally prepare myself for the day. Making the Kindergartener’s lunch. Preparing bottles for two, sippy cups for two. Waking and dressing three (except one never needs to be woken — he’s always squawking in his crib before I’m ready to get him). Feeding everyone. Cleaning up each in turn. Dealing with the inevitable spit-up and leaky diapers as they (sometimes literally) come at me. Brushing teeth and hair. Hugging and kissing my loves as they walk out the door.

Washing dishes, changing diapers, breaking up fights, nursing the baby, making bottles, preparing meals, wiping counters, attempting laundry, emptying the trash, stealing the spilled-over recycling back from the toddler. Over and over again.

Anticipating a break because everyone has finally been fed and the littlest ones are finally napping, only to have them both wake up on you. Rejoicing at getting all three boys to bed, only to have the baby wail for hours. Soaking in the quiet after everyone else in the house has fallen asleep, only to find it impossible to keep my eyes open.

The Kindergartener keeps asking to do his math games on my computer, but I’ve hardly turned it on in weeks, let alone taken the time to figure out the login his teacher sent home from school.

I’m not sure I’m feeding or bathing or holding the baby enough. This morning I left her in spit-up-soaked clothing for hours because she fell asleep before I had time to change her.

One child has been manufacturing drama to get my attention, another has been going overboard in telling me how much he loves me. The third just wants to be held. (Also, he’s about to turn two and expertly playing the part already.)

I’m edgy — worn thin and anxious about how little capacity I’ve had to tap out my thoughts (presidential campaign! drama at my alma mater! life with a new baby!) on the keyboard. Hence this quick attempt at a blog post via smartphone.

I’m tired, but the wired sort of tired where you hardly sit down for fear you won’t be able to get back up again. Brennan is more tired than I am — migraine tired, asleep-on-your-feet tired.

Yet it is good, living like this.

I’d forgotten how delightfully smushy a newborn feels in your arms. I’d forgotten how they smile in their sleep and splay their hands out in front of them. I’d forgotten how a baby’s big siblings will fall over each other to be close to her.

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I’d forgotten how much easier, despite all the work and all the rushing, it is to acclimate to having a new baby in your home when you’ve done it a few times already.

I’d forgotten how nice it is to hand off your baby to a room full of eager family members and then how much sweeter it is to get her back from them when the party’s over.

I’d forgotten how generous people can be.

I’d forgotten about all the looks of love and longing you see aimed in your direction when you carry a new baby around with you.

Yes. It is good, living like this.

(Even when you need to remind yourself of the fact as you run from one fire to the next.)

It is good.

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Twelve Days With Beautiful

Twelve days ago, something wonderful happened.

We welcomed a daughter.

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Little Miss Josephine Marie Walsh was (finally) born on Thursday, February 4 at 12:38 in the afternoon. She weighed nine pounds even and measured 21 and a half inches long.

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We followed our tradition of choosing a family name for our girl, just as we did for her brothers. “Josephine” is for my great-grandmother and “Marie” is after my middle name and my mother’s. (And my mother received her middle name in honor of her Aunt Marie, so there’s another level of family connection to that one.) I love how “Josephine Marie” hearkens to the Holy Family. What a good reminder her name will be to our own little (well – less little now) family.

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Josie and I are both doing very well at this point, thank goodness. Like her brothers, this little one proceeded to loose far too much weight in her first several days (nearly 16% of her birth weight), so we’ve had to begin supplementing with formula. (No surprise there.) Within days of beginning it, Josie rebounded beautifully: she gained nine ounces in three days, she stopped fussing so much, her – ahem – digestive system began to function normally again, and she started sleeping through most of the night. Amazing. I’m so grateful.

I’m feeling better too. The last time I had a baby, I was so excited (and, apparently, awake) that I dashed off a quick update for the blog, like, that night or the following day. So I thought I’d be able to do the same this time. I was wrong. Unlike my previous three deliveries, which all went something like this: Pitocin administered around 9am, baby born at 4 or 5pm (full day of work: check) – this one stretched on for what seemed like forever.

First there was the getting turned away from the hospital after a half-day’s worth of waiting and monitoring. Then there was the return to the hospital and the round after round after round after round (literally – four rounds) of a drug that was to prepare me for dilation. Then there was the middle-of-the-night start to my Pitocin. Then there was my customary eight hours of labor before finally, blessedly, pushing for less than five minutes to welcome Josie into the world. (Full day’s work, morning shift, immediately following two back-to-back shifts and one false start: check.)

When it was all over, exhaustion overtook me like it has rarely done before: I was nodding off mid-sentence, mid-thought, mid-answer to curiously awake-looking nurses. Needless to say, writing (even to answer emails or texts) was put on the back-burner. So was moving around. And thinking coherently.

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Thank goodness Brennan was such a champ: He stayed up all night long that first night, changing diapers, soothing our newborn, and managing her spit up. (Poor thing was born so quickly she must have taken a gulp of fluid on her way out.) And he’s continued to work super hard for the nearly two weeks of my recovery since then. I’ve managed the baby and some dishes and my own exhaustion/weakness/wooziness; he’s managed the boys and the cooking and did I mention the boys?

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Today will be his first day back to work and are we! going to! miss! him! Thankfully, as of this past weekend, I think I can say I’m emerging from my fog. I think.

What I can say with certainty is that our little Josie is beautiful. Yesterday I sat staring down at her in near disbelief. I cannot believe we have a daughter. I cannot believe how lovely she is. I cannot believe we have been so blessed as to welcome another perfect little baby into our lives.

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Thank you to all of you who kept us in prayer during my pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Thank you to all who have given us help and offered Josie welcome. Thank you.

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Today Is The Day. I Hope.

I have to qualify that first statement with “I hope” because yesterday was supposed to be the day – the day I was to appear bright and early at the hospital, get myself pumped full of drugs, go through all manner of torture, and then joyfully, if exhaustedly, finally get to meet my first daughter.

(I’m such a romantic about childbirth.)

Alas, it was not to be. When we arrived yesterday morning we were ushered riiight into the waiting room, where we remained for more than an hour and a half. (Let’s call that clue #1.) Then we were allowed behind the Big Locked Doors, but still kept waiting. Then paperwork and getting set up in a triage room, not a delivery room (clue #2). Then another hour and a half of attempt after attempt to monitor Baby Girl, who was dancing around so much they could barely find her. And during all that time, there was nary a mention of starting me on any of my get-to-it-already drugs (clue #3).

Finally, after we’d been at the hospital nearly four hours, we were told to go home. “There is no room at the inn,” they said. They were slammed, they said. I guess everybody who was fortunate enough to not go into labor during the blizzard decided to do so in the first 36 hours of February instead.

Everybody except me.

Because my body refuses to do something so normal as to go into labor on its own. (Just like it refuses to produce enough milk to sustain the fruits of those labors.)

But let’s not wallow right now. Let’s recognize the benefits of getting sent home from the hospital without a baby to show for our efforts: First, there’s the fact that I didn’t have to start a long, drawn-out, uncomfortable process in the afternoon, my meager breakfast a distant memory and my baby likely not to arrive until late at night. Second, there’s the fact that I got to have lunch. (Food on the brain, Julie?) Third, Brennan and I were both able to fit in afternoon naps. Fourth, we got to spend a reasonably relaxed evening with our boys – a big difference from the rushing of the night before. Fifth, this morning we didn’t have to leave two boys crying at the kitchen table like we did yesterday. Sixth, overall we’re much better rested and prepared to meet our daughter today than we were yesterday.

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So as long as they actually do take us today, I promise to not be too fussed about the delay. (And anyway, this way I get to give my dear old Uncle Tom a birthday buddy. Love you, Tom.)

I have to break here to share with you a clever little something my big five-year-old said the other day. On Monday (one day after my due date and one day before the originally-scheduled induction), our neighbor, who was bringing our guy home from the bus stop, asked him something like, “So, are you ready for Baby Yesterday? Or Baby Saturday?” (Our nickname for the baby during the pregnancy.)

“How about Baby Tomorrow?” he replied.

Then last night, when I said to him, “Hopefully your sister will come tomorrow,” he said “I’m sensing… she will.”

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Love this kid.

I have to share something funny I did a couple of weekends ago — something that seems ironic given my current please-baby-just-come-already situation. I was interviewed on CNN about the possibility of going into labor during The Blizzard of 2016.

Yes! Isn’t that funny?!

The Friday afternoon the storm started, I received an email from a woman at CNN who’d read my “(Please No) Having a Baby in a Blizzard” 7 Quick Takes post. She said she worked on CNN Tonight (anchored by Don Lemon) and that they were wondering whether I might be interested in appearing on that night’s show to discuss my concerns about potentially going into labor during the impending snowstorm.

After a good laugh and about three seconds of hesitation, I said yes. I did a quick Google search and dashed off a Facebook post – “Tell me what you know about CNN Tonight with Don Lemon” because – yes, Julie is a dweeb who watches zero television. I knew nothing about the show. (If it had been an NPR program/host, I would’ve been set.)

A few hours later, after everyone else in my house had gone to bed, I found myself changing into some semi-decent clothes and putting on make-up for my television appearance. I called CNN via Skype from my hastily-cleaned-up bedroom. I sat in front of my laptop and followed the tech guy’s instructions. I found a pen to fidget with while I talked.

Around 10:40pm, I was on. And it was so much fun! The whole thing was good-natured and laid-back – the exact opposite of my few previous experiences of being interviewed for radio or television. (For work, on topics like emergency contraception, immigration, and poverty – much more stressful than snow and babies!) Don and I chatted baby names and contingency plans and how my friends had suggested that I pretend to have contractions during the interview. (He seemed a little nervous at the prospect of any such thing occurring.) Our conversation was light and fun and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. If you’d like to see the interview for yourself, you can find it here.

There was, of course, no blizzard baby after all. I’d say I’m about seven parts relieved that it didn’t happen. (The stress! The safety concerns! The wanting to deliver at my own hospital, which is not the closest one to us!) But I’m also about three parts disappointed: One because it would have been a cool story, one because my parents came out to be snowed in with us for “nothing,” and one because I wanted this baby here by now. I didn’t want to be driving into the hospital three days after my due date to induce labor for a baby estimated to already weigh something like 9 pounds, 12 ounces.

I am so impatient.

I am also so afraid for my pelvis and baby’s shoulders.

But, here we are. I finish writing this post on my phone, in traffic, just a couple of miles away from the hospital where, God willing, we’ll meet our baby girl later today.

Please pray that she arrives safely, with all of us in good health. (Praying for a not-horrible birthing experience would be cool too, but at the end of the day, I’ll take safety over everything else.)

Thank you kindly. I’ll update here after baby’s born.

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We’re now here and they’re all set up for her arrival. I guess this is real.

(Not) Watching the Debate, Political Parties and Mr. Fluffy Puffy, and Staying Close to the Stories: 7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 38)

Seven Quick Takes Friday

—1—

I feel like if I’m to publish anything this morning, it should really be a review of last night’s GOP presidential debate. I mean, along with the mush and the madness that comes from being a mother, that’s what I do here, right?

Alas, I didn’t watch it.

By the time the evening came around, I was just so tired from the pregnancy and the parenting and the cold and what I now suspect is an ear infection, that I just had no energy to get excited about the debate.

So I lay down on the sofa to relax a while with my smartphone, I checked Twitter, promptly got all jealous of the people who were tweeting the debate, turned on the TV in spite of myself, saw about five minutes of the melee… and fell asleep.

Which is why I’m writing this 7 Quick Takes at one in the morning: When I fall asleep on the sofa, I have a heck of a time getting back to sleep in bed.

—2—

Let’s show you some images from our life here lately, shall we?

This was yesterday morning. The bigger one was a very, very fast cheetah and the littler one was… I don’t know… an excited toddler? I should have kept the video going another few seconds: As soon as I stopped it, little brother tackled big brother.

The two are becoming quite the pair now that their biggest brother is at school all day.

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—3—

The 4-year-old has retained his ridiculously long-lasting obsession with setting up “museums” all over the place. He already had a big bin of dinosaurs and another of animals with which to re-create The Museum of Natural History (a la Night At the Museum) when he made his Christmas wish known: He needed people. So the little guy asked (a very confused-looking) Santa for people for his museum (namely: Teddy Roosevelt, Attila the Hun, Abraham Lincoln, and Sacajawea) and thankfully, dear Santa delivered.

Kiddo had me take some pictures of him with (part of) his collection the other day:

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—4—

Poor biggest brother – I don’t have as many photos of him these days. But here’s one from a few nights ago. The older two carefully spread out a few pillowcases on the floor, placed throw pillows on top of them, sat down, and then the oldest said: “Mommy, look! We’re playing rug!”

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Creative kids, they are.

—5—

I realized the other day that I may well have taken zero – zero “baby bump” pictures this whole pregnancy. Mostly, it just never occurred to me to do so. But also, every suitable mirror has been surrounded by junk for so many months that I probably (subconsciously?) didn’t want to bother with it.

Anyway, I figured I should have at least one such picture before baby comes, so I cleared away the obstructions from the front of one mirror (but not the background – sorry!) And… here you go:

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37 weeks, 3 days. To be precise.

I feel like I’m a little smaller this go-round. (Though I have nothing to show you by way of comparison, because I’m not well enough organized to know where those photos are at 1:30 in the morning.)

That “smaller” feeling is ironic given that last week the sono tech told me that Baby Girl is going to “break the bank” insofar as weight is concerned. (My babies were 8 lbs 10 oz, 8 lbs 15 oz, and 9 lbs 1oz. If this one keeps on her current trajectory, we’re looking at the upper 9’s. Ugh.)

—6—

I read a really thought-provoking article the other day. As I put it on Facebook:

This was fascinating to read – probably because it affirmed several observations I’d already made. 😉 But seriously, a huge reason why Republicans and Democrats get annoyed with each other is that they imagine the other as a mirror of themselves. And they’re not. Democrats are less ideological than Republicans imagine them to be; Republicans are less policy-oriented than Democrats assume them to be. The two parties don’t simply hold different positions – they ARE different.

In other news, my 5-year-old has named his coat “Mr. Fluffy Puffy.”

I kinda-sorta wrote on the subject (the difference between the parties – not the coat) a few years ago, in one of my first posts on the blog.

—7—

To close, here’s another compelling piece I read this week. Laura, of Mothering Spirit, shares her heartbreak over learning her twins’ lives may be in danger. The situation is quite serious, and I’m sure she and her babies could use our prayers. (Please pray!)

But what really struck me was Laura’s recognition that even these very personal, intimately painful struggles are connected to bigger, older stories.

There it is: quiet and simple and true. The deepest memory, the of-course of the ancient story, the same anger and despair, the fearful frustration of the wild unknown.

Read the whole thing for a much better relation of what she means than I’ve presented here. I’ll just add that when I find myself worried or scared or frustrated or overwhelmed – and then I have the good fortune to recall a story, or to have an image come to mind, of other people throughout time who have experienced similar struggles – I am heartened. I feel less alone. I feel more connected to other people, indeed to humanity itself, and to God.

I wish I remembered those connections more frequently, and I’m glad Laura has the comfort of doing so in this very trying time.

~~~

Have a wonderful weekend, all. And please be sure to stop over to Kelly’s to read everybody else’s Quick Takes for the week.

Ready, Not Ready

This past weekend I hit the magical 37-week mark of pregnancy (full term!) and my husband and I cleaned out our minivan. He vacuumed and rearranged the car seats; I cleaned the van’s interior with – what else? – baby wipes.

I also laundered various baby gear, cleaned out my boys’ closet, and starting shifting the toddler’s belongings from his room to his big brothers’. (Kiddo’s getting promoted – a.k.a. demoted – to the rank of “roommate” here in the next week or so. Poor thing.)

I haven’t yet started washing baby clothes, but I am very proud of myself for having pulled out an overflowing bin’s worth of gender neutral-ish clothing from my (much too large) stash of boy stuff.

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All that is to say, between the 37 weeks and the weekend’s accomplishments and the fact that (according to last week’s sono) baby girl likely weighs about 8-and-a-half pounds already, by the end of the weekend I was officially Ready For This Child To Be Born.

But then Monday happened.

Monday happened, and though it contained nothing but normal, low-level mishaps, it left me wondering (not for the first time) how I could possibly think I’m fit to handle four children under the age of six. Here’s a sampling of that evening’s Facebook activity:

It’s 5:27 on a Monday evening. At this hour, responsible stay-at-home mommies up and down the east coast are diligently preparing healthy dinners for their families. But me? I’m upstairs hiding from my boys, eating a chocolate doughnut.

My second chocolate doughnut.

However, today was the day of pink eye, pacifiers dropped on exam room floors, toddlers sucking on public chairs and sticking their hands in public (urine-filled) toilets, little napping, excessive screaming, and cackles from the child to whom I’d just said, “You gave Mommy a hard time today, didn’t you?”

So hide I shall.

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Update: I returned from hiding just in time to catch Today’s Offending Party removing his poopy diaper. And then putting on a fireman’s helmet to (happily) dance around stark naked.

Today is begging to be mommy-blogged.

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My beloved tormentor.

Last week, I was all set to update you fine folks on the health situations I mentioned on New Year’s Eve.

“Though I sit here with a raw nose, watery eyes, and a throat dry from open-mouthed breathing,” I was going to say, “I didn’t want to wait too long to tell you kind souls that things are looking up for our family, health-wise. (Mostly. Because in a household of six people, what would cold and flu season be if somebody weren’t sick at any given moment?)”

But then last week happened, and this one too. And I’m no longer feeling perkily overconfident that we’ll all soon be healthy. Our stupid, nasty cold is hanging on for dear life. Child #1 now has an ear infection; child #2 has an eye infection (and has developed an allergy to the antibiotic prescribed to address it). Child #3 and myself are still congested, sneezing, snotty messes. Brennan has somehow (thank goodness!) escaped the so-called “cold,” but his mother has just succumbed to it.

As much as my sore body wants (Not So) Little Miss Baby Girl to arrive as soon as possible, my good sense really, really wants us to be healthy when she makes her appearance. So I’m feeling a little more down now than I was when I drafted my “things are looking up for our family, health-wise” post.

Still, on one very important count, things are indeed looking up: Brennan seems to be firmly on the upswing. Though he’s still somewhat fatigued, his numbness and weakness are fading. (What a relief!) He’s still experiencing some of the negative effects of the spinal tap – occasional headaches, feeling like his brain is bruised – but he’s not bogged down by them like he was that first week. Every day seems to be getting better, slowly but surely.

Honestly, it’s been like I’m looking at a different (happier, much more comfortable) person from the end of December. The boys and I are so glad to have Brennan “back.”

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Somebody was very sad when Daddy had to go back to work after Christmas vacation.

As for me (insofar as the pregnancy is concerned), Baby Girl and I are coming along fine. I’m still experiencing occasional episodes in which I feel faint and I’m contracting (what feels like) pretty much all the time – but I’m fine. Everything is checking out as it should. And unless I go into labor by myself before then (ha! unlikely!), it looks like we’ll be scheduling an induction for sometime around the 24th.

Which is about ten days away.

So… I suppose Brennan and I ought to wrap up some loose ends so we can plant ourselves firmly in the “ready” camp, hm? (That, and we need to get our family healthy.)

Last but not least: Thank you so much to all who have been praying for us and otherwise offering support. I find your kindnesses at once uplifting and humbling. Thank you, thank you.

Frenzy, Grace, Repeat

Last week really whooped me.

It was probably more than this pregnant lady should have attempted, for each day was taken at a frenetic pace and each involved enough steps to make me regret no longer wearing my Fitbit. (Do you have any idea how much more accomplished I would feel to have had a device beeping surpassed goals at me all week?)

Fitbit or no, I’m confident that I burned enough calories to more than justify my three heaping bowlfuls of ice cream doused with crumbled-up Butterfinger.

Between rushing around the house to fit in all the cooking/baking/cleaning/laundering that had to be done before the deadlines of we need to leave and they’re almost here, and lugging my boys to and through four (count ‘em: FOUR) fall events o’ fun, I was nearly reduced to tears on Friday night. I drove home through a beautiful fall landscape, yet could barely keep it together.

I am so tired. My feet and hips ache. I think this is my breaking point. Brennan is working late, I’m on my own with three filthy, dirty little boys who still need to be fed, bathed, and put to bed – and I still need to change their sheets. How in the world am I supposed to manage it all?

I was thisclose to tears. Big ones. Great, heaving sobs of exhaustion and surrender. But then something occurred to me:

“Who do you think is the most tired, Boys?” (Waving my hand in the air) “Me! Me! Me! I win!”

“No you don’t! I’m more tired! I am! I win!”

“Nope! I’m the most tired! I think you boys had better carry me inside the house, feed me dinner, and put me to bed!”

“We can’t do that! You’re too big!”

“Sure you could! Two of you take my arms and one of you take my legs. We’ll be all set!”

Laughter, laughter, laughter.

Thank you, Lord, for that moment of grace.

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Thank you, too, for the grace-filled moments that filled our weekend.

Saturday morning, without guilt or hesitation (though I knew he had plans for a home repair project), I told Brennan that I needed some time – just a little time – to myself. He didn’t hesitate either.

I eased myself into the day, then I went out. I hit the library and the town museum. I walked around downtown. On my own, I enjoyed the blustery weather about a hundred times more than I would have if I’d been carrying a 30-pound toddler in one arm and shepherding two small boys with the other.

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That afternoon, instead of putting a stop to the toddler-climbing-on-top-of-me-and-my-reading-material behavior that usually drives me nuts, I caught my little guy smiling mischievously and I smiled back. We touched our foreheads together and rocked them back and forth – our little signal of love. He cooed and growled and we laughed. I pressed my face against his and held him tight.

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I heard my four-year-old say, “I wuv you, Mommy. I wuv you more den you wuv me!”

“That’s not possible!” I said as I snuggled and tickled him.

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I prepared dinner in the (rare) quiet. Brennan was busily, happily working outside, perched on scaffolding just beyond the kitchen window. He’d grinned at me through the glass when he got the first level up.

The bigger boys were watching a movie and (after I’d fed him a second lunch/first dinner) their little brother was happily toddling in and out of the kitchen. I stopped and stood and felt my gratitude for my family and our home and our ability to put a good meal on the table.

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Sunday morning, two little boys ended up in bed with us. They wiggled and whispered and one bonked his daddy on the face. But when I came out of the bathroom, Brennan held one captive in his lap, tickling him. The other was settled in his baby brother’s room, perched on a chair just beyond the crib, “reading” aloud to the no-longer-crying little one.

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We went downstairs and they played so nicely. They played something having to do with animals and serving food – I’m not sure, but I think I heard mention of a Lion Café. “I’m so glad they have each other,” I said to Brennan.

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We went to Mass and the toddler was pretty difficult – he screeched and threw his bottle into the aisle (twice) and had to be removed. But the four-year-old stuck his head out of the pew so he could watch the consecration.

Without the toddler grabbing for it, I could hold my hymnal and sing in peace. Afterwards, the five-year-old regaled us with the Alleluia he’d learned in the Children’s Liturgy.

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That afternoon and evening, Brennan took charge of the boys so I could work my way through stacks of paperwork and reminders. I did some of that, then I wrote the bulk of this post. The tasks were mundane, but somehow more refreshing than just about anything else I could have done with that time.

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Honestly, I’m astounded when I look back on the weekend to count just how many small graces I received after a week that, while it looked good on the surface, really, thoroughly wore me down. “I can’t remember when I have ever been so tired,” I might have said to my mother-in-law Friday night, wearing an exceptionally pathetic look on my face.

I don’t know why I find it so surprising – it’s not like I forget that paces change. It’s just that the difference seemed so stark to me: One day I was suffering under the abundance of good things in my family’s life, the next they were building me up.

The key difference was… me.

Yes, physical exhaustion had a great deal to do with it. A good night’s sleep, when you can get it, does wonders. But I was still tired over the weekend. I still had (most of) my usual responsibilities. Yet somehow I also had the graces of perspective, of taking my time, of stopping to notice the little joys bound up in and between my responsibilities.

I’m so thankful.

This week is another busy one. I’m sure I’ll find myself again running at a frenzied pace, again exhausted, again stretched thin. C’est la vie. But I’m sure more graces will follow – and indeed be found within the frenzy, if I take the time to notice them.

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Well, Hello There

It appears that yesterday’s post hit on something.

At least the Big Family folks must have liked it, because that little written-when-I-should-have-been-doing-dishes ode to big families smashed every (modest) record this blog has accumulated in its young life.

So I thought – just in case any of yesterday’s visitors are tempted to pop back in – that I’d issue a little hello and a welcome and an I’m so glad you’re here.

Because I am!

Allow me to introduce myself: My name is Julie. I’m married to the wonderful Brennan, whom (shhh!) I met on eHarmony. Together we have three beautiful boys, aged five, four, and 18 months. In January we expect to add our fourth child to the mix, whom we recently learned is a GIRL. (Pinch me!)

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Our young, LOUD, more-than-a-little-rambunctious family lives in my home state of Maryland, in a 150-year-old Victorian. Which happens to be rather formal, and so makes for some hilarious incongruity.

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Before my sons were born, I worked as a lobbyist for the Catholic Church, advocating on poverty, health care, and immigration matters. I lean right on some issues (like abortion and marriage), left on others (like poverty, immigration, and capital punishment). I think religious freedom is vitally important. I pay decently close attention to foreign affairs, including the recent horrors and happenings in the Middle East. I generally enjoy sharing my thoughts on (gasp!) politics and society. Indeed, lately I’ve been running a series on What This Catholic Wants in a President.

For the past five years, I’ve been your typical stay-at-home-mom. I do lots of cooking and laundry and far too few dishes. I send my oldest to Kindergarten and my second to pre-school. Lately my toddler has been keeping me on my toes by reaching ever further onto the kitchen counters, grabbing glasses or plates or moldy corn muffins. (Should I confess that the latter was partially consumed before I caught him?)

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Here at These Walls you’ll find a mix of motherhood, mayhem, politics, current events, and whatever else is occupying my mind at the moment. You can subscribe to my posts over there to the right, or you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Bloglovin.

I’m so glad to have you here!

These Walls - Well Hello There

You Won’t Hear Me Say I’m Done

The other night my mom stopped by with two of her girlfriends for a quick-ish visit.

Wait. Let me be clearer: These women didn’t simply stop by. No, they had driven an hour and a half for the express purpose of meeting my boys. Mom’s friends were in town from other parts of the country and amazingly, they’d decided that their visit just had to include this brand of mayhem:

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I could be wrong, but I think Mom’s (lovely, kind) friends are probably from smaller families, because they seemed equal parts delighted and exhausted by my boys’ lively, LOUD antics.

Either way, their reactions reminded me that most people in our society aren’t actually raising (soon-to-be) four children aged five and under. Huh. Imagine that. I’ve gotten so used to this madness that it’s easy for me to forget that some find it curious. (Also, I’m sufficiently immersed in the Catholic mom blog world that four seems like nothing in comparison to others’ six, eight, or ten.)

Then I go out in public with my three small boys and my not-so-small belly and I’m stared at and I remember: This intense, chaotic, busy, yes-I-have-my-hands-full life that I’m living? Most people are daunted by it, even if they’re kind enough to find it endearing. Most people I encounter have not, and would not choose it.

Sometimes I question whether I should have.

Sometimes I think of how much peace I would have in the middle of the day if I had just two children who were both in school full time. (Note that I said peace, not leisure – I’m well aware that running a household and a family makes for quite enough responsibilities to keep even the parents of smaller families perpetually well-occupied.)

Sometimes I see pictures of friends’ vacations and weekend camping trips and visits to museums and I pine for the freedom that one or two semi-reasonable, potty-trained children would give my family to enjoy the world around us.

Sometimes I hear other moms’ declarations that they couldn’t possibly handle any more than the two or three children they already have and I wonder whether I’m foolish to think that I can.

Sometimes I even post things like this on Facebook:

I’m making a real dinner tonight, which means I’ve had yet another opportunity to reflect on how OH MY GOSH THEY’RE DRIVING ME MAD I’M GOING TO LOSE MY FLIPPING MIND WHY DID GOD GIVE ME ALL BOYS? WHAT WAS I ON TO THINK I COULD HANDLE ALL THESE LITTLE KIDS AT ONCE?

But then.

Then I look at my boys’ sweet (or mischievous or even sobbing) faces and I thank God for my foolishness, for my lack of freedom and peace. I wonder how I could have ever lived without these infinitely precious little people in my life.

I thank Him for the experiences that lead me down this path to a larger-than-average family. And I look forward to where the path will take me.

Because as much work as it takes to raise a bunch of little kids, as much sleep and sanity as it costs you, the reward is mind-bogglingly huge.

Today, I get the love and snuggles and hilarious stories and charming questions. I get to witness my boys’ camaraderie. I get to watch my husband struggle to perch all three on his lap at once. I get to feel my boys’ jostling against my belly, vying to feel their baby sister move within it.

Tomorrow – many tomorrows from now, I hope to get so much more.

I hope to experience jolly, chaotic Christmases. I hope to never know which loved one will walk through the door next. I hope to have sons who will step forward to fix something around the house so their dad won’t have to. I hope my daughter and her sisters-in-law will bring each other meals when they have babies. I hope to have enough grandchildren running around this place to make my head spin.

I hope my children and grandchildren enjoy the security that I grew up with – the comfort of knowing that no matter what life brings, they will have plenty of people to love and care for them.

I am blessed to come from a very large, very close family. My mom’s family, in particular, includes her six siblings and their spouses, more than twenty grandchildren and (with only six of us having kids so far) another twenty some great-grandchildren. Plus, my family maintains close connections to many of my grandparents’ siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews (as well as great and great-great ones).

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All but four of us.

But beyond all the numbers, there is the love. There is the love that is expressed and the love that is shown in helpfulness and kindness and patience and laughter.

There is not perfection, but there is more food on the table than one family could possibly eat. There are jokes over late-night card games and extra hands when a new baby is born. There is medical advice from the nurses, real estate tips from the realtor, construction and renovation and decorating expertise from the family members in those fields.

There is the knowledge that should tragedy strike and someone be left without the one(s) he loves best, there are dozens prepared to stand there beside him.

I know that my extended family’s closeness is unusual in this day and age and I know that my husband and I have no guarantee that our own one-day family will echo it. But I’m hopeful that if we raise our children with as much love as my grandparents and parents did with theirs, then maybe we’ll have a pretty good shot.

So that’s what I look forward to. That’s what I hope to build. That’s what consoles me on the days when they’re pulling at my clothes and I’m pulling out my hair.

And that’s why you won’t hear me declaring that I’m done – that no way, no how could I handle another child.

Because as long as these days may be, these years – these years of exhaustion and NOISE and limitless responsibilities – I know that one day they’ll seem short. And that when they’re through, my husband and I will be left with the fruit of all our work: our people.

Our people.

No matter how many they number, I know that each and every one will seem infinitely precious to us. I’m sure I’ll wonder how I could have ever lived without them.

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~~~

Are you new here? Welcome! I’m glad you’ve stopped by!

If you liked this post, here are some more you might want to check out:

Wonderful Because They’re Them: Thoughts on Mothering All Boys
Here’s to Another Fifty-Four
Another to Love
The Unremarkable Worth Remembering
Honesty From a Fed-up Mommy
What Matters to Him

To get an idea of what else to expect from These Walls, check out this post.

Think you might like to come back? You can subscribe to my posts over there to the right, or you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Bloglovin.

I hope to “see” you back here soon!

These Walls - You Won't Hear Me Say I'm Done